September 9, 2011

THE BIJOU @ TIFF: Midnight Madness – “The Raid”

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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TIFF’s Midnight Madness program is exactly what you think it is:  10 flat-out, unapologetic genre movies that premiere each night at midnight in front of a raucous crowd at the 1200-seat Ryerson Theatre.  In any given year, the Madness may include unexpected gems like last year’s Insidious and 2006’s Borat, interestingly weird pictures such as A Town Called Panic and Inside, and plenty that are just plan bad like John Carpenter’s The Ward and Diablo Cody’s Jennifer’s Body.

This year, things kicked off with THE RAID, which is Indonesian but directed by Welshman Gareth Huw Evans.  I don’t know that it’ll ever get a mainstream US release–there’s a limited American market for subtitled Indonesian action movies–but it could certainly get remade, and Evans may find his phone ringing.

The movie’s concept is simple:  a group of cops have been sent into the apartment complex where a crime boss has his headquarters.  The idea is to get in and out fast with the villain in cuffs, before the residents (most of whom work for him) can catch on, but of course it doesn’t work out that way.  The police are found out, and have to fight their way through practically every room of the building, as they struggle to stay alive long enough to reach his lair on the top floor and capture him.  As you’d expect, not all the cops are who they seem to be, and neither are all of the bad guys.
The Raid is a rudimentary movie (even the crime boss’s surveillance system seems circa 1974), but the action is utterly non-stop; when the characters take a momentary breather a couple of times in the 101 minutes running time, you need the break as much as they do.  The violence is exhilaratingly extreme in the way that we’re not supposed to admit enjoying (after a scene with a broken light bulb, Home Depot will never look the same), and Evans, who edited the film as well as directing, makes it all look remarkably real.  The picture doesn’t hold up all the way through for the same reason that many martial arts movies don’t:  we’re essentially watching the same sequence several times over, and even with the spectacular talents of this cast, eventually they get a bit tiresome.  In addition, the lack of any but the most lazy characterizations takes a toll.
Still, after 2 serious festival movies largely concerned with the profound and complex subject of death and its effect on the living, there’s something to be said for the guilty pleasure of a couple of hours watching dozens of people die for no reason other than entertainment.  The Raid is a lot of dumb fun.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."